It’s that time of year again. I’m a bit on the fence as to how I feel about unicycling’s status in my state. Over last summer, my governor signed into law a bill that made a unicycle specifically not a vehicle under the law. This has a few pros and cons for me.
Not forbidden from sidewalks
Cannot get a DUI if I ride home from a bar
Cannot “take the lane” or ride with traffic flow
Have less claim to use of roadway
Now for me I feel tha neither vehicle or non-vehicle status is good for me. On my 36" I ride with traffic, as I would on a bike. On my 26" I feel comfortable stopping quickly if someone walks in front of me, so I can use sidewalks no problem. What sort of legal status would you prefer?
If I lived in Ohio and supported either of America’s two capitalist parties of racism and war, the non-vehicle status that the governor gave to unicycles would probably get my vote, as it would allow me the possibility of legally going up on the sidewalk in emergencies to avoid dangerous traffic conditions.
In my experience, the status of unicycles, like most legal matters, is more up to the police than to any legislation that may exist. I know several people who’ve gotten tickets for unicycling on the sidewalk even though there’s no law against it where we live. One man even told me that he got a ticket for riding on the sidewalk only days after cops had yelled at him for riding on the street, saying he was holding up traffic.
Recently on the Staten Island ferry, going in one direction, I heard a security guard mumble something about a bicycle, but another said “That’s not a bicycle!” and that was the end of that. On my return journey, though, there were far fewer passengers, so an officer had his dog sniff my 29" and then insisted that it was a bicycle, so I had to go to a basement loading area that was full of cops, and my uni and tiny backpack were inspected by a second K9 unit before I could get on the ferry.
Whatever their legal status (the less the better, iMHO), the attention that unicycles attract can be a problem if you’re around people whose mission has expanded to include the detection and prevention of all unusual activities.
Eh, politics? Although politicians make law, I think you mean “unicycle law”.
Here that still would be possible; driving or not: being drunk in public is forbidden.
The one in my country. It’s perfect; I’m among “persons that move using a object” (meaning not motorized), and so not a driver of a vehicle.
The law tells me to use the pavement, and also allows me to use the cycle-path up to my discretion. And even on the road if there’s no cyclepath.
Further pedestrians are allowed on both sides of the road.
So; I can go wherever I want …as long I obey the most important piece of law:
don’t do anything that you can reasonable know of to be hazardous towards others.
Unfortunately police and traffic controllers and alike, don’t know the law.
Which I can now can cite and refer by head.
Despite, in my last conflict with police (one who was making the law, in stead of enforcing it), I ended up with a form that tells me I have to appeal in court.
Still -weeks later- I haven’t received any real summons (…nor apologies).
Most traffic controllers don’t even know they do not have any lawful authority at all over the pavement or over pedestrians here… which might be the reason they always want -or even do- fight with me. At that last occasion I placed a citizen arrest, supported by one witness, but the police did not want to press charges due to “lack of proof” (even a street camera filmed it all).
Coincidence or not, none of them ever bothered me again after that.
And that same week suddenly one other came up with apologies for threatening me.
I guess they learned the law is on my side, and is well thought.
I’d prefer your laws over those here in Oregon. I can get a DUI in Oregon even if my blood alcohol content is under 0.000001%. If Oregon POs think that you are in any way impaired based on your behavior + any BAC above 0.0%, you can get a DUI (on roads, sidewalks, bike paths, you name it). This is not good for me, because often I look unstable while riding when I’m completely sober! And unicycles are treated the same way as bicycles, which means it is illegal for me to even ride on the sidewalk. This freaks me out because I HATE riding on roads because of the road camber, and I’m not confident enough to even ride a bicycle in traffic. Sometimes I wish the unicycling community were bigger so that we could actually have a say in laws that affect us.
All this to say, I absolutely do NOT ride buzzed or drunk, nor do I want to. But if I have a BAC of 0.00001% (which clearly would have NO effect on me) and I want to ride home and look like a fool doing it, I am screwed thanks to the Oregon unicycling laws.
Leo lives in one of the most bike-friendly countries on Earth. Very civilized for cyclists. Over here, we’re basically still trying to not get legally killed by motorists. In Ohio, which has a lot of unicycling history, I would recommend riding sensibly at all times. If you are going distances on your 36", ride as a bicyclist should, and you should be fine in most circumstances. On a smaller wheel, use your judgement, be polite, and watch out for paranoid pedestrians.
A group of us ride over it every year in the San Francisco Unicycle Tour. I missed it this year, but they still did it. If they ban us, I think we’ll do exactly the same thing, with exactly the same results.
Below, Jess Riegel is followed by three visible unicyclists, with more behind, in 2012.
In 2008, the state of New South Wales, Australia specifically classed unicyclists as “pedestrians operating wheeled recreational devices”.
It is the same classification as skates, skateboards and scooters. The same rules apply to wheeled toys.
We must give way to other pedestrians.
I can ride on footpaths (sidewalks) and cycleways. I can ride on any road excepting those marked with a centreline or having a speed limit above 50 km/hr. I cannot even use the verges of these roads but I can ride on a traffic island or area designated for parking.
I can ride across these roads provide I use the shortest safe path.
I cannot ride on any road at night even with a light except to cross them but I can ride on the footpath without lights.
I am happy with this arrangement. I would not want to trade riding on the footpath to be classified as a bicyclist which would let me ride on any road and at night.
I rode across the Golden Gate in 1987 on my 24" Schwinn. Amazing ride for me at the time. Had a lady who looked like her last meal was a turd yell at me that Bicycles belong on the other side of the bridge. I told her good thing they belong on the other side or there wouldn’t be room for us unicyclists. FYI, I was fairly well above the legal limit at the time after spending some time in a drinking establishment celebrating my pending ride across the bridge. A fantastic day I think about often and everybody but the turd lady was friendly and supportive. A bucket list item for most uni riders IMHO. Be safe though.
True, and yes politics was what made a change, in deed not just law.
If we go country down, we’re in Belgium, where Antwerp is the opposite of Brussels if it comes to bicycling.
Just after reading this thread, and without searching for it, I came across a worth-watching related or IMHO on-topic documentairy about bicycling in Brussels (19 min. EN).
About changing the law; write a small report that tells the number of unicycle fatalities is zero, and you like to keep it like that.
Then show a picture of young kid (wearing no protection), learning on a colorful tiny unicycle. And ask if s/he belongs on the road. And opposite: show a picture full of marathon-fanatics and ask if they belong on the sidewalk.
Then propose a law that allows for common sense. Meaning you should belong on at the sidewalk, but are allowed on the road if that’s more safe for both you as others around you. Take a few hours to read the traffic law, and check if you’re somehow not covered yet, and make you detailed suggestion, or just ask they’d pay attention to the problem.
Nitpicking here, but what I meant to discuss was our community’s opinion of law, which is political in nature.
In my state, there is disorderly conduct(regardless of intoxication, causing danger to self/others or generally offensive actions) and there is a much more serious crime of Operating a Vehicle while Impaired. I would be at risk for the former, but not the latter.
That is a pretty good system, I agree. Does that law extend to bicyclists as well? Many places view bicyclists as vehicles, which entitles them to use of the roadway and in many cases restricts the use of the pavement (sidewalk to Americans)
Here in the UK there is a crime of being drunk and disorderly in a public place, but I’m fairly sure that being drunk by itself is not a crime, and being happy drunk without causing anybody else any trouble would not result in any risk of arrest. There is a totally separate offence of being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle which is based on blood alcohol level, and you can be obliged to take a breath or blood test - this does not apply to people riding bicycles or unicycles. Another separate law of being drunk in charge of a cycle (which I think also applies to unicycles, though the law here is vague and contradictory over the status of unicycles). However you cannot be breathalysed for this, it relies upon a sobriety test and I think you would have to be pretty much incapable of riding a bicycle (and certainly incapable of riding a unicycle) to be prosecuted for it.
In general as mentioned above we’re in a bit of a grey area, which works quite well, as most of the time discretion in the use of the law is applied. I’d suspect you’d have to do something reckless to come to the attention of the police. I certainly ride on the pavement (sidewalk), bikepaths, footpaths or the road depending on what I feel the most appropriate, and don’t need a whole hand to count the number of times I’ve ever had anybody object - would and have quite happily ride past policemen using whatever path I want.
When you wrote unicycle politics my only thought was IUF ruling or so. So that’s where my nitpicking came from.
There’s probably more bicyclists than cars here, and so they are a recognized class on it’s own, also because of the MANY (suggestive painted or truly separated) cyclepaths. Have a look at video’s I posted before.
With those you really don’t want to ride on the road nor the sidewalk anymore.
Such an ideal situation is very unlikely in Ohio on a short term, still I think your point will be taken serious.
One law I am 100% sure of that very long ago existed in the UK was one that said: unicycles and cycles with a wheel ≤ 20" = Foot Path, and with a wheel of > 20" = Road
Meaning a BMX would not allowed on the road. I tried my very best to find that image of a copy of a book of law back, but I’m sure it was in a magazine I don’t have anymore.
Anyway, you may suggest something similar, but maybe less fixed, and more up to discretion of the unicyclist.
Make your cover letter visual. For example something like this:
Asking the capitalist government to make new laws regarding unicycles might not be the wisest thing to do. The less they notice us, the better, as far as I’m concerned. This video is about some of the cyclepaths that exist in the US.
OVI/DUI/DWI is generally in the US administered by breathalyser at a level of .08% BAC. But nearly every state has provisions to allow an officer to apply that charge at their discretion. It could and has been applied to medications that impair driving ability.
Most sobriety tests are pretty difficult, and unicycling drunk really isn’t. I can’t recite the alphabet backwards under any circumstance, but I can ride a unicycle after quite a few drinks (pretty much up to the point that I can’t walk).
Different in the UK - here DUI is done pretty much purely on blood alcohol level, no discretion involved. They have recently brought in laws concerning other stuff which impairs driving ability, but that’s totally separate.
I think “sobriety test” was the wrong wording and gave the wrong impression. I’m fairly sure you can’t be made to do any such test here, it is purely down to the judgement of the police officer, and given the requirement of proof “beyond reasonable doubt” they have a fairly high bar to pass. Anecdotally I know that people who’ve been stopped on bikes when clearly not up to the task have just been advised to walk rather than arrested (I’m not proud to admit that when at university and using a bicycle for most of my transport I did sometimes ride home when so drunk that I didn’t remember much about it the next day)
In my country there is a strict definition of bicycle: «muscle driven vehicle with two or more wheels, excluding wheel chairs», so we, unicyclists, are «de jure» pedestrians. The police seems to be aware of it.
That’s almost exactly the legal definition for bicycle in New York City, and it seems reasonable to me. Some cops may be aware of it, but my impression is that it doesn’t matter. The kid in the New York Post story that I linked to near the beginning of this thread actually showed them the text of the law while they were writing him his summons to appear in court. A friend of mine did the same thing. In both cases, their argument worked in court, but not with the police.
The New York City government seems to prefer to spend money on legal settlements- close to $100 million a year according to this source- rather than trying to restrain its police. Cops are probably given orders to ticket people aggressively and then let the court system sort out details like how many wheels your bike has on it or whatever. And of course, they do more than write tickets, but don’t get me started… Be careful out there!